By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
After my last week’s article about Turkey kidnapping its dissident citizens from overseas, I came across several other examples of the Turkish government’s attempts to bring back, under false pretenses, the critics of Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Last month, there was a disturbing news item in the Armenia media speculating how two armed Kurdish fighters, who were arrested after crossing Armenia’s border from Iran, ended up in Turkey. Were the Kurds handed over to Turkey by the Armenian authorities in view of their recent attempts to normalize relations with Turkey or were they kidnapped from Armenia by Turkish agents? Either way, this is a very alarming development.
Armenia’s Ministry of Justice announced that the two Kurds were initially sentenced to seven years in jail. After the court of appeal reduced their sentences, they were set free and placed on probation. Somehow, they surfaced in Turkey where they are now under arrest.
On September 24, a Kurdish website published a statement from Kurdish People’s Defense Forces, accusing Armenia of extraditing the two Kurds to Turkey. Armenia’s Ministry of Justice responded by saying that it did not hand over the Kurds to Turkey.
Turning to other cases of Turkish attempts to have its citizens extradited, Abdullah Bozkurt wrote an article in the Sweden-based Nordic Monitor on September 22, titled: “Turkish Embassy in Canada came up with a new tactic to secure extradition of critics, opponents.”
Based on confidential Turkish documents, Bozkurt revealed that Turkey asked Canada to extradite Suat Yıldırım, an 80-year-old professor and author of several books, who “faces outstanding arrest warrants on fabricated charges.” The Turkish government has filed “dozens of frivolous extradition requests with Canadian authorities” to hand over to Turkey its domestic opponents, including several journalists.
Bozkurt wrote a second Nordic Monitor article with the title: “Turkish Embassy in Ottawa spied on critical journalists, NGOs in Canada,” revealing that Turkish diplomats kept under observation two Canadian-Turkish social organizations. The Embassy also profiled two Turkish journalists, Faruk Arslan and Hasan Yilmaz. “According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom, 211 journalists were jailed in Turkey as of March 14, 2019 and 167 journalists who face arrest warrants were forced to live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.”
Bozkurt wrote a third Nordic Monitor article titled: “Turkish Embassy in New Zealand spied on child care center and profiled critics.” He revealed that the embassy surveilled the Little Pearls child care center in New Zealand.
Levent Kenez wrote in the Nordic Monitor an article titled, “Documents show Turkish diplomats spied on Erdogan’s critics in the United Kingdom,” disclosing that the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into “70 Turkish nationals who were listed by Turkish diplomats in London without any concrete evidence of wrongdoing.”
Kenez also disclosed that Turkish educator Orhan Inandi “was kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan on May 31 and illegally brought to Turkey by Turkish intelligence agency, MIT.” In addition, the Turkish Embassy in Kosovo profiled 78 exiled Turkish teachers. The Nordic Monitor also revealed that the “MIT infiltrated refugee camps in Greece in order to spy on opponents who were forced to flee to Greece to escape an unprecedented crackdown in neighboring Turkey.”
In another Nordic Monitor article with the title, “Diaspora agency that runs covert recruitment programs with Turkish intelligence seeks young lobbyists in the US and Canada,” Kenez disclosed that The Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) recruited 30 young Turkish residents of the United States and Canada for a training program called the “US-Canada Diaspora Advocacy Academy,” which took place in Maryland in September. The program covered: “Contemporary Issues in Turkish Foreign Policy, the 1915 Events and the Turkish-Armenian Conflict, USA and Canada Structure and Decision Making Processes, Pressure groups, and Lobbying.” In addition, workshops were held on “Raising Turkish Diaspora Awareness and Media, Politics and Hate Speech.”
During last week’s meeting with Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Ankara, Pres. Erdogan demanded the extradition to Turkey of exiled Turkish journalist Bulent Kenes, the former editor-in-chief of the now-closed English language Today’s Zaman daily, also an outspoken critic of the Turkish government. Kristersson was hoping to persuade Turkey to drop its blocking of Sweden from joining the NATO military alliance, with Ankara accusing Sweden and Finland of harboring political dissidents who are labelled as “terrorists” by Turkey. “The deportation of the terrorist named Bulent Kenes is of importance to us,” Erdogan said at a news conference with Kristersson.
The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement warning Sweden not “to give in to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s blackmail and set a precedent that would endanger exiled Turkish journalists worldwide.”